Biotech veterans take reins at Biota — the new Nabi -- Gazette.Net







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Biota Pharmaceuticals — formerly Nabi Biopharmaceuticals — has a new team at the top.

Russell H. Plumb is the Rockville biotech’s new CEO, succeeding Raafat E.F. Fahim, and is also a new director. Joseph M. Patti is executive vice president, corporate development and strategy. Fahim will receive a severance package totaling about $2.7 million, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Plumb and Patti assume their leadership posts following Nabi’s $27 million acquisition last week of Biota Holdings of Melbourne, Australia. After Nabi shareholders approved the deal in late October, Nabi changed its named to Biota Pharmaceuticals.

Biota produces influenza vaccine-related products Relenza, which is licensed to GlaxoSmithKline, and Inavir. Nabi had focused on a smoking vaccine, but it failed in phase 3 clinical trials.

Before the deal closed, Biota saw the acquisition as a way to access the “larger and deeper” U.S. marketplace, its chairman, James Fox, said during his company’s conference call in April. He said Biota had been looking to get into the U.S. for a year and planned to have a U.S.-based CEO to give it a “direct and more clear connection to the U.S. market.”

Both Plumb and Patti come to Biota from Inhibitex, an Alpharetta, Ga., biotech that Bristol-Myers Squibb acquired in February for about $2.5 billion. Plumb had been CEO, president and CFO until its acquisition. Patti co-founded the company and was its chief scientific officer and senior vice president of research and development.

Inhibitex focused on developing oral small-molecule compounds to treat hepatitis C virus infections and shingles.

"Biota's move to the United States marks the beginning of a transformative period for the company. With two drugs on the market and a robust pipeline anchored by laninamivir, Biota represents a truly unique opportunity and I'm excited to play a role in maximizing the company's potential," Plumb said in a statement.

Plumb will receive a base salary of $525,000, plus stock, options and potential bonuses, according to the SEC filing. Patti’s compensation includes an annual salary is $400,000, plus stock, options and bonuses.

"Russ and Joe are talented and proven executives who bring a successful track record of leading and operating drug development companies," Fox said. "I believe that the strong commercial skills exhibited by Russ and Joe will augment the excellent science of Biota and create a unique value proposition for our shareholders."

Staying on as a Biota director is Peter Cook, who resigned as Biota Holdings CEO when the deal closed. Besides Plumb, Cook and Fox, who is chairman, the company’s new directors are Paul Bell, Jeffery Errington and Richard Hill.

In other Maryland bioscience industry news:

LeukoDx is in line for an additional $2 million investment from Axcel Partners after finishing development of technology to rapidly diagnose infection and sepsis.

The Towson company reached what it called a "significant milestone" by completing a functional alpha prototype of its diagnostic instrument and cartridge. The goal is to develop a diagnostic system that can deliver results from a drop of blood in 10 minutes. The technology was developed for NASA at the California Institute of Technology.

The new money follows a $1.5 million investment this year, and is part of a standing commitment with the Stevenson private equity firm to pump $8 million into the biotech, LeukoDx said in a statement.

"With this new funding in place, we have already launched the efforts to develop the beta instrument and the beta cartridge, which we expect to complete by the middle of 2013," CEO Julien Meissonnier said in a statement. "In parallel, we are actively seeking additional medical diagnostic applications suitable for our platform to be developed via collaboration agreements with partners."

Supernus Pharmaceuticals, after netting $47.6 million in its initial public offering of 10 million shares in May, has registered more shares for sales worth up to $86.3 million, according to a regulatory filing.

The Rockville company has received FDA approval for its epilepsy therapies and is developing candidates for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, including for ADHD patients with impulsive aggression.

With the help of city and county grants totaling $51,546, Cytomedix is expanding its operations in Gaithersburg.

The biotech, which focuses on regenerative therapies for orthopedics, strokes and wound care, now has about 4,100 square feet of lab and office on Perry Parkway. With $21,546 from the Gaithersburg Economic Development Toolbox program and $30,000 from the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, the company is renovating its space and leasing about 3,000 more square feet.

Cytomedix has 47 employees and said in a statement that it expects to grow.

The company also reported this week that its third-quarter net loss widened to $3.8 million from $2.2 million in the prior-year quarter. Revenues rose to $1.8 million from $1.5 million.

Spherix, the Bethesda biotech that's developing treatments for diabetes, metabolic syndrome and atherosclerosis, sold $2.6 million of its common stock in a private placement, netting about $2.3 million, according to a regulatory filing.

The sale of 483,657 shares enables the company to comply with a Nasdaq notice in September that it faced delisting for falling below the exchange's minimum of 500,000 shares, Spherix said.

Spherix also reported expanding its board from six to eight directors, and added Edward M. Karr and Harvey J. Kesner. Karr is founder of RAMPartners, an investment management and investment banking firm in Geneva, Switzerland. Kesner is a partner with Sichenzia Ross Friedman Ference, a New York law firm.

Also, the company has a new supply and license agreement with Fullife Healthcare of Mumbai, India, to use Spherix’s D-tagatose in nutraceutical products in India.

Fullife can use Spherix's clinical data and proprietary knowledge to support marketing and dosing of the D-tagatose that Spherix will supply. The D-tagatose will be used in food or cosmetic products in return for a fixed royalty on gross sales, said Claire Kruger, Spherix’s CEO.

“This agreement opens a new worldwide nutraceutical/dietary supplement opportunity for Spherix,” Kruger said in a statement. The company has about 10 tons ready to ship.

D-tagatose is a naturally occurring simple sugar that’s effective for glycemic control in patients with Type 2 diabetes and other indications, according to Spherix.

The company also reported Thursday that its third-quarter net loss narrowed to $765,963 from $913,318 in the prior-year quarter. Revenues fell to $194,301 from $198,464.

TissueGene of Rockville reported that it finished enrolling patients in its phase 2 clinical trial of TG-C in patients with severe osteoarthritis of the knee.

TG-C, which is injected, works by regenerating cartilage, according to company information. It will be tested at five U.S. hospitals and clinical research centers.

TissueGene's licensing partner, Kolon Life Science of Korea, has completed patient enrollment for a phase 2b study of TG-C in that nation.

The company expects to report study data next year, Kwan Hee Lee, chief medical officer of TissueGene, said in a statement.